Friday, April 3, 2020

Covid, sourdough bread and Granfer

One of the impacts of isolation from covid, has been the over-whelming interest around the world in learning to make bread. I'm one of the many who has given it a go.

I decided to have a go at making sourdough bread because that is what I enjoy when I go to our local cafe for Sunday morning breakfast. What I didn't realise was there is a very definite art in making sourdough bread, and people become obsessed for years.

Ready, steady...get your starter   

The first difficulty was trying to decide what recipe to use, and to find out what a starter is. Apparently, you make your own starter and it can live in your fridge, like some slimy monster ghost from Ghostbusters, for years!  One of my friends told me they have moods....and different smells depending what mood they are in...and you have to feed it! Freaked me out, I have to say. 

In the end, I must admit I cheated and used this recipe which has yeast in its starter: How To Make Homemade Sourdough Bread. But another friend of mine loves this recipe, which uses a starter from just flour and water: Sourdough Bread: A Beginner’s Guide. The advantage of sour dough is it doesn't use yeast, which currently is really difficult to find, and apparently is better for your gastric system. 

Everything went well with the starter and five days later it was ready to go. I was afraid that I would not be able to find somewhere warm enough in our apartment to encourage the dough to rise, but it seemed to like our small laundry room which can get quite warm when we're using the washing machine.

Rise and shine

Another tip I was given by friends is that you cannot rush the rising stage. I got my timing all wrong because I didn't read the recipe right. Next time I'll be a little more careful with my planning because making the bread (including hours for rising) takes all day.
My other concern was that I wouldn't get the kneading right, or that I'd get bored. But I actually found it really relaxing and I was quite happy to knead away while I was listening to my audio book.


 Fire and water   

   Eventually I got to the stage I was ready to cook, but didn't have   a dutch oven. Not sure why I needed one, or even what a dutch oven is. But in the end, I experimented. One loaf I cooked in a Pyrex bowl with lid which seemed to work well. The other loaf I cooked on a baking tray which definitely didn't work, as you can horribly burnt!  I also put a bowl with water in the oven. Again, I have no idea why, but it was on the advice of a friend.


It's in the blood!

I've always been afraid of making bread. My Granfer was a baker, and even worked as a baker in the army in WW2. But I never did any baking with him when I was a child so never learned any skills from him. My mother is a wonderful cake maker but she never got on well with bread-making. So whilst I learned to make cakes from her, I also think I learned from her that bread-making is hard and consequently have never really tried it. Even when I had a bread-maker, I never got on very well with it.

Ironically, it takes a world-wide epidemic to bring me to bread-making and a connection to my Granfer. I wish he were here so I could pick his brains for tips, but I am sure he'd be pleased that someone is carrying on the family tradition.